Saturday, 10 December 2011

Book now published

The cover of 'Unhalfbricking' (1969), with Edna and Neil Denny in foreground and Fairport Convention in background. (Photo: Eric Hayes).

The cover of 'Rising For The Moon' (1975). Sandy does a Tarot reading while the band look on. Painting by Marion Appleton. (See 'Sandy Denny: Reflections on Her Music', p103.)

I’m pleased to say that Sandy Denny: Reflections on Her Music was published as scheduled last week. Now in stock at Amazon UK for £7.17. Customers in the States should be able to order from the UK site using their Amazon US account.

Alternatively, you can order direct from the publisher. I'm told that customers who order via the Troubadour website will receive copies within 2 days if they order before 2pm. The publisher can fulfil orders inland and overseas.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

New book!

Early news of my forthcoming book about Sandy:

Philip Ward
Sandy Denny: Reflections on Her Music
Matador Press
Publication: 7 December 2011
RRP: £9.99

ISBN 978-1780880204

This will be available through all good bookshops, from Amazon UK or direct from the publisher. It’s a collection of my writings on Sandy which have appeared in magazines, album notes and online over the years, together with new material and a host of photos, some of them previously unpublished.

From the blurb:

‘…In this book Philip Ward, who has made a close study of the artist, presents a series of personal ‘reflections’ on her life and work. He fills in details overlooked by her biographers, surveys recent reissues of her recordings and offers the first in-depth analysis of her songwriting. He looks back to the public events marking the thirtieth anniversary of her death and assesses her alongside some of her contemporaries. In the author’s words, the book is ‘a series of experiments’ in how to write about the subject. It concludes with a detailed essay arguing the case that, long before Amy Winehouse or Kate Bush, Denny was the first British female singer-songwriter of international stature.

“Philip Ward's analyses of Sandy's songs are original, thorough and insightful. I learned a lot from reading them.” – Joe Boyd, record producer.

If you see material disappear from this blog or from my website, that’s because it’s in the book.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Collaborations old and new

Due for release from Witchwood Media on 19 September:

19 Rupert Street (Sandy Denny with Alex Campbell)

Dave Cousins writes:

“I first heard this recording as I was being driven by my friend Stuart Douglas, Alex Campbell’s cousin, round Lake Ontario on the way to Toronto. He put a cassette into the player, without saying a word, and I was amazed to hear Sandy Denny and Alex swapping songs and chatting away. Stuart had found the tape in Glasgow in Patsy Campbell’s house after she died but, as a cassette, it was unusable for release.

Then last year I went to a meeting in Copenhagen and afterwards a guy came up to me and said that a friend of his had a tape of Sandy Denny that he’d recorded years ago in Glasgow. I wrote and asked if I could have a copy and a few weeks later, much to my amazement, the original tape arrived through the post. It was recorded at 19 Rupert Street, Glasgow, Alex Campbell’s home, on 5 August 1967 on a quarter track domestic machine. I took it to Abbey Road to have it transferred to digital, and I was stunned to hear Sandy and Alex singing, laughing and joking as though I was in the room with them.

I edited and mastered it with legendary producer Chris Tsangarides. It’s what it is, a home recording, but what atmosphere! On record Sandy often comes across as sounding melancholy. There are secrets behind some of her songs that very few people know, that brought about certain sadness. But this recording shows Sandy as she was when I first met her – bright and funny, with a voice that could pin your ears back or melt your heart. I’m so pleased to be able to share this with you.”


1. The Leaves Of Life
2. Willie Moore
3. Balulalow
4. The Sans Day Carol
5. Trouble In Mind
6. Jimmie Brown The Newsboy
7. The Midnight Special
8. Milk And Honey
9. Who Knows Where The Time Goes?
10. Fairytale Lullaby
11. She Moves Through The Fair
12. (And so to bed) Chuffa Chuffa Chuff/Clementine/Jesus Loves Me

Also available on 180g vinyl from Music on Vinyl.

The information I have is that Sandy is on all the tracks. Solo on 1, 3 and 8-11. Track 2 is a duet with Patsy Campbell. According to his biographer, John Martyn’s ‘Fairytale Lullaby’ was a song Sandy had plans to record, presumably on the projected solo album she mentioned to interviewers in 1967. The album sounds promising, even if it doesn’t look promising: I fail to understand why Witchwood seem determined to package her work as if it’s appearing on a budget label circa 1971. Or is that the idea? A ‘period’ feel?

Also scheduled for release later this year (on Island) is Don't Stop Singing, a collaboration between Thea Gilmore and Sandy Denny from beyond the grave: Gilmore sets to music and performs unpublished Denny lyrics (I believe). Here’s the tracklisting:

1. Glistening Bay
2. Don’t Stop Me Singing
3. Frozen Time
4. Goodnight
5. London
6. Pain In My Heart
7. Sailor
8. Long Time Gone
9. Song No. 4
10. Georgia

Postscript, August 2011: ‘Legs O’Hagan’ has written to set me straight on the cover of 19 Rupert Street: “The cover uses a Cath Kidston retro style as a way of looking back to the time the recording was made while the typography for the album title recreates that of the street sign. Cooper Black was fashionable in 1967 and again now. Yes, some thought went into it…”

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Fotheringay Essen 1970

Garden of Delights/Thors Hammer THCD006 (CD), THLP002 (vinyl)

Release date: 20 June. This is the first release of a newly discovered recording of Fotheringay live at Grugahalle, Essen, Germany, on 23 October 1970. Currently only available from, but I’m told it should be with Amazon UK in the coming weeks. Remastered by Jerry Donahue. Booklet essay by moi.

That, at least, may be something to get excited about” (Clinton Heylin, 2011).

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Heylin Is Not Great

People sometimes ask why I haven’t expressed an opinion about Clinton Heylin’s biography on this blog. I suppose I was hiding behind Oscar Wilde’s dictum: “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” No doubt which of these categories is appropriate for Mr H’s work. We’d forgive him much if he were a kind of rock’n’roll version of Christopher Hitchens (author of God Is Not Great) – writes like an angel, while cleaving to the Devil’s party. But Heylin doesn’t write like an angel. And now that his book has been republished, I wonder if what one might call the ‘Aesthetic’ defence is adequate. In his determination to be “forthright” (his publisher’s word), Heylin compounds his crimes against literary style by plumbing new depths of personal invective.

What we have from Omnibus Press is a straight reprint of the book originally published by Helter Skelter in 2000, complete with misprints and uncorrected factual errors and the same lacklustre set of photographs. To this has been added an opinionated and highly partial discography in which Heylin rubbishes every release of Sandy’s music since 2000, with the exception of the Saga sessions CD (the only one he was involved with himself.) This is followed by a truly bizarre five-and-a-half page tirade headed ‘An Intemperate Disquisition on the Plundering of Sandy Denny’s Musical Legacy’. Here he questions the professional integrity and motives of everyone who has been involved with issuing her music in the last ten years. These people must answer for themselves, and no doubt will. They’ll require, I daresay, at least another five pages to rebut his assertions point by point, for he makes numerous factual claims, many of which – even on the basis of information in the public domain – I know to be untrue.

For example:

He contrasts the firm control exercised by the Nick Drake estate over posthumous releases with the perceived laxity of the Denny estate: “As a result there has been no indentured hand on the rudder determined to nix material unworthy of her memory” (p275). In fact, there has been a stream of issues – Time Of No Reply, Made To Love Magic, A Treasury, Fruit Tree – designed to sate the public’s appetite for additions to Drake’s tiny recorded output. The most recent of these, Family Tree (2007), which packages up his early home demos, is prefaced by an open letter from Gabrielle Drake to her brother:

“Up till now, every decision I have taken – I have been allowed to take – on your behalf about your music has been guided by what I believe might have met with your approval… But now I am endorsing the publication of an album that I am not at all sure you would have sanctioned.”

Gabrielle’s purpose, she goes on to explain, is to dish the bootleggers.

Ah yes, bootleggers. Mr H has written a whole book about them. One of his most serious charges is that the compiler of the 19-CD Sandy boxset sourced many of the unreleased recordings from “bootlegs” (p272). The press notice issued by Universal at the time made clear that the material used came from the Island archive or from reels which were property of the estate. Indeed, much of what he says about the recent boxset – the tracklisting, the contents, the accompanying book – suggests that he has not physically laid hands on it or listened to it, or even read the 4- and 5-star reviews in the press of what he calls “the most ill-conceived anthology of the CD era” (p278). He tells us that he expected to receive a complimentary copy (p279) even when I have it privately on good authority that no recording of his was used. Besides, no one seems to have got a complimentary set; I certainly didn’t, and work of mine was used in the box.

And so on, by way of an attack on Jerry Donahue based on misinformation about the Royalty Theatre recordings and the Fotheringay 2 sessions. The accusation that Andrew Batt, who toiled for months in the Island archives to compile the recent boxset, has an “unhealthy obsession” with his subject (p278) is curious coming as it does from someone who has published over a thousand pages chronicling, via notebooks and studio logs, the evolution of every song Bob Dylan has ever recorded and putting Dylan himself right on a number of matters. As the Independent reviewer commented of this magnum opus, “Dylan might have been there – but only Heylin knows what actually happened.”

Postscript May 2012. Since I wrote the above the book has gone into a second impression. Recognising their mistake, the publishers have removed the offending 'Disquisition' from the reprint.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Authorised biography

News from

Authorised Sandy Biography to be published by Faber & Faber in 2013/14

Finally, a, complete, considered and authorised biography of Sandy is underway. Late last year her estate approached long time music journalist and PR man Mick Houghton with the idea; publishers Faber & Faber commissioned the project and now it’s underway – due for publication late 2013/early 2014.

Mick is eminently suited to the task. Whilst he’s taken care of the PR for many of the big names in the UK’s music scene through the 80s, Sandy fans will be more impressed by his current roster of boyhood folk music heroes: Richard Thompson, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, and Shirley Collins. The past couple of years saw him researching and writing
Becoming Elektra, his book about his all time favourite record label, Elektra Records and its founder Jac Holzman, that was published last October – while Mick was already busy organising the PR for the Sandy Boxset and also providing all the interviews for the hardback book that accompanied the 19CDs.

Update, November 2014: Faber has now announced a definite publication date of 5 March 2015: I've Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

Sunday, 3 April 2011

New Fotheringay DVD

Fotheringay with Sandy Denny - The Lost Broadcasts (CD+DVD)
Release Date: [originally given as] 6 June 2011
Label: Gonzo

The session featured on this CD/DVD package was filmed for German TV in October 1970 and includes four songs. 'Too Much Of Nothing' was part of the original broadcast on the Beat-Club programme back in 1970 and 'Gypsy Davey' turned up on a compilation programme in the late 80's. 'Nothing More' and 'John The Gun' have been unseen until now.

Contents: 1. Too Much Of Nothing 2. Gypsy Davey 3. Nothing More 4. John The Gun

Press release [dead link]
Buy at Amazon UK

Postscript, July 2011: Amazon is now notifying customers that this item is unavailable and cancelling their orders. It looks doubtful that the DVD will ever appear: something to do with uncleared rights.